Due to lack of accessibility, people
with intellectual disabilities (ID) often find themselves barred from many
conventional norms, like attending a university. Thankfully, PASSAGE USA
(Preparing All Students Socially and Academically for Gainful Employment
University of South Alabama), UI-REACH (University of Iowa-Realizing
Educational and Career Hopes), and other similar programs are becoming more
common and constantly improving to further educational experiences for
college-aged individuals with ID. My mentor and director of PASSAGE USA, Dr.
Abigail Baxter, suggested I review “College Students with Intellectual
Disabilities: How Are They Faring?” to learn more about the University of Iowa’s
inclusive living and learning opportunities for all students.

Much like PASSAGE USA, UI-REACH
offers a two-year certificate program in which students are provided with
inclusive college experiences that emphasize “student life, academic life, and
career development and transition” (Henderickson et al., 189). The application
and admissions process is also based on similar criteria that measures
intelligence quotients as well as social, independence, and communication
skills. Both programs endorse the idea that “…difficulties in these skills
do not overshadow the positive characteristics of individuals with ID…but
recognize the heroic effort they may put forth every day to access and enjoy
opportunities and resources others may take for granted” (Henderickson et al.,
190). However, UI-REACH impressively goes a step further than PASSAGE USA by
offering students the opportunity to live in on-campus residence halls.

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Choosing to stay in residence halls
creates a living-learning environment. This is considered to be the “most
important classroom” as students are integrated into a diverse community of
traditional students, providing excellent opportunities to foster social and
independent-living skills (Henderickson et al, 190). Still, the students’ stay
in residence halls is not without support from trained resident assistants, specialized
roommate agreements, and on-call UI-REACH staff to make this transition period
less intimidating. Once the students feel comfortable, they are free to engage
and discover new interests independently. I am pleased to know that not only do
UI-REACH students benefit, but traditional students also learn the importance
of acceptance and respect.

Using the Ryff Scales of
Psychological Well-Being (SPWB) and the Openness to Diversity/Challenge Scale
(ODC), a study measured psychological well-being and openness to diversity and
its challenges in first-year students, both traditional and individuals with
IDs. Overall, results indicated there were no significant differences in psychological
well-being and response to racial diversity between the students during the first-year
transition period. Unsurprisingly to me, people with and people without ID are
more alike than different.

“Providing inclusive residence hall
living…appears to hold particular promise for the futures of all students by
enriching their day-by-day college life experience and better preparing them
for living and working in diverse communities” (Henderickson et al., 196). I wholeheartedly
agree that implementing inclusive residence halls would improve the intended
college experience for PASSAGE USA students. As I research with Dr. Baxter, I
hope to find further evidence which breaks societal stigma against people with
ID and supports allowing students with ID to stay in on-campus housing in
addition to creating accommodations to aid in their transition. 

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